….Their distance became physical as the sisters married and moved to different locations around the United States and world.
Yet, eventually, each woman began to let out the darkness that had enveloped their lives. In the journey from violence to healing, one of those steps is telling your story and not having secrets.
â€œWe are only as sick as our darkest secret,â€ Klassen-Landis said, â€œand we had despair and fear and grief tucked away in every nook and cranny.â€
Klassen-Landis and Klassen only began to share their story when their sister Ruth Andrews, who became involved with Journey of Hope in 1993, encouraged them to join.
Their ability to reconcile anger and pain became stronger the more they had to tell their story. They discovered ties between their experience and those of other murder victim family members whose relationships became restorative.
â€œThe beauty of love is the healing that happens through it,â€ Klassen-Landis said. â€œForgiveness is a way of life that sets us all free.â€
….[Pelke] grandmother, Ruth Pelke, was 78 when she invited four teenage
girls into her home, under the impression they wanted her to teach them a
Pelkeâ€™s father found Ruthâ€™s body the next day.
Paula Cooper was 15 when she stabbed Ruth Pelke 33 times, and a year
later became the youngest female on death row in America.
At first Pelke supported Cooperâ€™s sentence. But he struggled with
whether Cooper should die.
Pelke began questioning God. Three things he meditated on changed his
perspective. The first was Jesusâ€™ Sermon on the Mount. Second, Pelke
remembered Matthew 18 when Peter asked Jesus how often to forgive a sin,
seven times? Jesus replied by saying 70 times seven. Last, he
envisioned Jesusâ€™ words at the crucifixion: â€œFather forgive them, for
they know not what they do.â€
At that point, he remembered Cooperâ€™s grandfather yelling at the
sentencing, â€œYouâ€™re going to kill my baby!â€ He saw the tears on her
prison uniform and knew that if he didnâ€™t try to forgive, he would feel
guilty whenever he thought about his grandmother.
After forgiving Cooper, Pelke went on a mission to have her life
spared. Through his work, she was taken off of death row and sentenced
to 60 years in prison.
â€œRevenge is not the answer. Itâ€™s never the answer,â€ Pelke said. â€œThe
answer is love and compassion for all of humanity.â€
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